In case my logo wasn't a dead giveaway, I have a thing for Greece. Archaeology is in my blood, as my mother, father and sister all worked in this or related fields. I even toyed with becoming a archaeologist myself, but by that time I was half way through college and couldn't stomach the thought of even more school.
So to sate myself, this past Fall I and a group of friends traveled to Greece where I forced them to spend two weeks exploring the ruins of Athens and the rugged, mountainous and starkly beautiful Peloponnese.
Before I left , I did considerable research on what to see and what to skip. One of the places which was downplayed by almost every person and every source I consulted with Sparta. Although a large city, it's remotely located in the Evrotas Valley which made it a difficult to reach and somewhat mysterious place even during antiquity. And since the Spartans were known more for this skill in warfare, less for being great builders or artisans, many seem quick to dismiss the area as being archaeological unimportant.
"I wouldn't even bother with Sparta," a good friend told me before I left, having visited several years earlier. "There's nothing there but a few piles of rock so spend your time at better sites."
But with all due respect, my friend, the guidebooks, and all the online resources were wrong. Sparta was a genuine surprise, not only for its ruins but as a city filled with amazing restaurants, impressive museums and a vibrant open-air market where we stocked up on all kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables.
And where other ruins in Greece scream with the throngs of tourists, commercialization, and even construction equipment, the ruins of Sparta whispered.
My friend was right about one thing. The ancient sites were neither as vast nor as impressive as those in Athens, Corinth or Messene. If you're only impressed by size and grandeur, well, I guess you might want to skip Sparta after all. But personally, I can find a lone marble column standing lost in a grove of olive trees to be just as intriguing as a fortified acropolis. With so few people about, and the noises of the city far away, we could hear every chattering bird and the wind rustling through the treetops. The sense of isolation was almost magical, almost as though we were the first people to set foot here in two thousand years.
So I'm presenting some of my favorite photos from that day, the ones I think best captured the ruins and the countryside.